D-Day anniversary

June 6, 2015 • 2:00 pm

by Grania Spingies

June 6th is the anniversary of D-Day, the Normandy Landings in 1944 when the Allies invaded German-occupies Western Europe and perhaps can be said to be the turning point in the war.

Reader Randy alerted Jerry to this quiz which tests your knowledge of the Operation in some detail.  The quiz is fairly quick to take but it requires a respectable knowledge of the planning and execution of the invasion. Jerry took the quiz and netted 56% which he was surprised at.

I don’t count myself as knowledgeable on the subject, although somehow I have gleaned certain facts which I must attribute to Hollywood (but not Saving Private Ryan) rather than any study or reading.

My parents were children during War 2, but in spite of it overshadowing their young lives they rarely if ever spoke of it at home. One is British and the other is German, so perhaps they felt it was a subject best left alone.

Do take the quiz and weigh in below with the score.

Hat-tip: Randy

111 thoughts on “D-Day anniversary

  1. Really glad that I actually beat Jerry at a quiz. Did not think that was possible and I do believe this quiz threw in some pretty bad questions that had nothing to do with your knowledge on the subject. 72%

    1. 72% as well. I probably relied more on my memory of The Longest Day than anything else. A couple of lucky guesses helped too.

    2. Which questions had nothing to do with your knowledge of the subject? You did a lot better than me by the way – I got 52%.

  2. 96%, but I’m a WW2 fanatic. Had forgotten what “funnies were.” Antony Beevor’s D-Day a terrific book, as is Max Hastings’s Overlord.

    1. What about – how wide the invasion beaches were or how many boats? I thought we were on Jeopardy.

  3. I was doing 100% until about halfway through when my iPad refused to cooperate with the website. D-Day is quite familiar to me. My uncle, 20 years old, a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne, was killed that day in Normandy. A combat medic, he was awarded a Silver Star posthumously for valor. I never knew him (I was born in 1948), but I think of him often, especially on this day.

    1. A lot of brave men died that day, unfortunately. There are two reasons I’m here today. 1) As a combat engineer, my dad was supposed to be in the first wave. There was some foul up and he landed after noon sometime. 2) After VE Day, they put him on a ship to Japan where he most likely would have been killed…probably in the first wave again, except Truman dropped the bombs. After which, he was diverted and sent home.

      1. My father was sent to India in 1944. He claimed that if Churchill had won the election rather than Atlee he would probably have died there!

    2. I had the same problem with my iPad but I missed 3 which should give me 88%. I missed # of ships, length of landing area and those damned pigeons (a part of the story I had never heard).

  4. Only 56%, but I feel pretty good about that. Who knew about the pigeons? question 17 is, in my opinion, wrong, as it ignores the contribution of the russian army. still…

    1. I would have said their answer to q17 *does* take into account the Russian contribution. It’s saying that D-Day wasn’t the final act in Europe.

      68% score. But I did know what the ‘funnies’ were!

    2. I got the pigeons question wrong too. I answered leaflets and they did in fact drop a lot of leaflets. I thought of leaflets because I saw some of them at the Houston Museum of Printing history. They had one called “The Instrument of Safe Surrender” that at first looked like an official German document, but was actually instructions on how to surrender. It even had Eisenhower and Montgomery’s signatures on it and a little form on the back to write your name and serial number on the back with assurances that the Allies would try to contact a soldiers family to let them know everything was OK.

  5. 68 % – missed quantitative questions – and I didn’t know what “funnies” were…

  6. 60% by three old Farties sitting here in a UK living room, who were all babies in arms at the time of the landings.

    1. outstanding. One thing I experience in England many years ago when I was in the service was some very friendly treatment by some of the older generation while visiting in Liverpool. This would have been around 1970 and I don’t recall the name of their equivalent to our veteran’s clubs but it was like that. They had me get up on stage and talked about some of the war and sang songs. It was a great time and also much different than most of us young Yanks in the military got around the air bases where we worked.

  7. 92%, I got pigeons and the time for the British paratroopers wrong.

    But to be honest, I guessed at about 4 and got lucky, like who had a famous father buried at Normandy, who was the reporter.

    I’ve been reading and watching a lot of media on WWII and D-Day, I’ve always found WWII fascinating in so many different ways, it’s a subject a person could (and do) spend their lives exploring and never cover a tiny portion of it.

    I hope one day to get to Europe and visit many of the important sites. I’d love to see the German, French and British fortifications. I’d like to see the Maginot line, I understand some of it is kept as a museum.

    1. I got 52% too. I also enjoy reading about history but am much more interested in the personalities involved and the reasons for what they did than in the hardware involved so I retain some details a lot better than others.

    1. There’s no denying the enormous contribution Russia made to defeating Hitler but it does something of a disservice to all the other allied troops to suggest they did it on their own.

      1. Proportionately speaking, it would probably be fair to say that the war against Nazi Germany was won by the Soviet Union. America helped, Britain was there. But the sheer scale of hostilities was such that the contribution of the ‘lesser’ nations was hardly insignificant to *them*.

    2. From the perspective of Poland that was certainly the case. As Anne Applebaum writes in her Pulitzer prize-winning Gulag, A History:

      “We [people in the west] have, at present, a firm conviction that the Second World War was a wholly just war, and few want that conviction shaken. We remember D-Day, the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, the children welcoming American GIs with cheers on the streets. No one wants to be told that there was another, darker side to Allied victory, or that the camps of Stalin, our ally, expanded just as the camps of Hitler, our enemy, were liberated. To admit that by sending thousands of Russians to their deaths by forcibly repatriating them after the war, or by consigning millions of people to Soviet rule at Yalta, the Western Allies might have helped others commit crimes against humanity would undermine the moral clarity of our memories of that era. No one wants to think that we defeated one mass murderer with the help of another.”

    3. Agreed, but don’t forget that Russian troops drove to Berlin in American trucks, and the decisive Russian victory at Kursk was in no small part due to Bletchley Park giving them the German plans.

      1. Apparently also the Soviets used Canadian radios, too (in part). One can see one of these at the war museum in Ottawa. Seeing a Canadian radio with Cyrillic on it is pretty odd. 🙂

        (Not to mention Canadian food, but all the Allies did.)

        48%.

        I knew I didn’t know much about military history, but …

  8. Seventy-two percent,but on one answer I mis-clicked. The Normandy invasion is fascinating not only for the day itself, but for the planning that went into it. Even the time at which to land was a contested topic with questions of how far landing craft could land troops depending on tidal conditions weighed against whether naval bombardment was a necessary factor, which depended on light. The men who planned the invasion deserve as much credit as the men who performed it, American, Canadian, or British. The effort involved should be a lesson to tyrants everywhere who think that effete democracies will stand by while freedom is trampled underfoot.

  9. 68. Respectable, I suppose.

    There were too many US-oriented questions, considering that it was a joint operation.

  10. 56%. Great minds and all. This was rather interesting and I read up on the invasion afterward. The pigeons and ‘the funnies’ were the most surprising things. Some lucky guesses.

  11. 52%, although I’d like to complain that question 19 was a pain to answer – there’s no easy top-of-the-head way to convert pounds into kilograms so I can understand them.

  12. 68% here. Went around the front 12 in par, but started picking up bogies on the back 13. Some of the questions (including some I got right) seemed a bit “Trivial Pursuit”-ish.

  13. 52%, but I guessed most of them. I haven’t read a lot of war history, and I tend to stick to politics rather than battles.

  14. 56%. I did particularly badly on weights-and-measures and which minor American figures were there/doing what (reporters, medal-winners, etc).

    1. 56%. Me too.

      A lot of the questions were trivia, like the weight carried by a soldier, or why Rommel was in Germany (though I fluked that one).

      Most of my knowledge comes from an old, big and fascinating book called “Bodyguard of Lies” which tells the story of secret operations during the war – the ‘Doublecross’ network of ‘turned’ German spies, Enigma and codebreaking, the German staff plots against Hitler, and the deception operations the Allies mounted around D-Day.

      1. I never read that sort of stuff*, but watched a BBC series (based on RV Jones’ book) two or three times back in the 70s. TV used to be very educational when I was young, but these days? pfft.

        *Also learned some stuff from e.g. Hodges’ biography of Turing, Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon and Connie Willis’ time-travel yarns, but I rarely even think of reading history as such.

        1. I’ve got the book of the series (same title The Secret War. I find such stuff intellectually far more interesting than straight-out description of armies trying to kill each other.

          What also emerges is that it’s virtually impossible, a priori, to predict which odd inventions would work and which would fail miserably. Trying to light up submarines with a spotlight? – sounds idiotic, when you have radar. Yet it worked extremely well (the Leigh Light).

  15. Something the quiz didn’t really mention was the Allied deception plans to convince the Germans the invasion was in the Pas de Calais instead of Normandy. They used every technique they had, from ‘reports’ from turned German spies of troop build-ups in Kent, to phony radio traffic, to dummy tanks, to bombers flying in circles over the Channel dropping ‘window’ to look like an invasion force on German radar, and it worked, the Germans kept several crack divisions in the Pas de Calais to counter the ‘invasion threat’, even after the Normandy landings had started.

    The bit I like was this: the Allies were prepared to have all their deception sources ‘blown’ when the Germans realised the Calais ‘invasion’ was a fake, but they even managed to cover for that, they had their tame agents report to their German masters that the Normandy landings had been so successful the intended ‘Calais’ invasion forces had been redeployed to support the Normandy invasion instead. That’s cheeky!

    1. And while I’m rabbiting on – the other thing I find truly incredible is that the breaking of Enigma was successfully kept secret for 30 years after the war. The breaking of the story in 1975 immediately made every history of the war published before that obsolete, or at least threw a very different slant on it.

      For example, places in Churchill’s massive ‘History of the second world war’ where he said ‘our sources told us’ or ‘intelligence confirmed’ – unexplained gaps that you didn’t fully realise were gaps when reading it – suddenly made more sense if one read it as ‘Enigma told us’.

      1. You can thank Alan Turing for that, he was the brains behind Colossus the early Computer that Deciphered Enigma, he was a Mathematical Genius. He was treated abominably after the War because he was Gay, he commited Suicide in 1952 I think, and a lot of potential went with him, he also nvented the Turing Test , a series of questions that a Human could ask to determine whether he was talking to a Machine or not .

        1. While I agree Turing played a major part, he was just one of several talented mathematicians who played a part in the code-breaking developments. (I’m not sure what the recent movie may have said but I suspect it may have given him sole credit which I doubt he would have claimed for himself).

          In saying that, I certainly don’t wish to detract from his accomplishments which were remarkable.

      2. Legend has it that the reason why there was such a long delay was that after the war all the newly independent countries used Enigma type machines ……

        Probably an urban legend…

  16. I’m simply glad my Dad got back from Dieppe in ’42 and then ‘Gold’ Beach, Normandy in ’44.

    I was born in ’52.

  17. 56% Thought I knew a lot about D/Day, mind you some of the Questions where a bit number specific.

  18. 76%, not too bad I guess but I’m quite interested in WWII history and have read some books about “D-Day” (and of course seen the Longest Day about 10 times :))
    I didn’t know about the pigeons but I did know the “funnies”.
    I didn’t notice until the end of the quiz that the website I was on was the “Christian Science Monitor” 😉

  19. 56%…My neighbour was in the landing with the British. He had fought in the desert then was brought home for the invasion. He got a medal, can’t remember the exact year but it would have been in the early 80’s. He was supposedly the 10,000th person to land. Have no idea how they figured that out.

    He never talked about the bad times only the fun times. Riding his motorcycle around looking for wine cellars and bringing wine for his buddies. He was busted from Sergeant 3 times. He was a courier in France and was hit by a mortar, survived with neck and back injuries and sent back to England for a year or so recovery. Cheers to Bob Morice!

    1. I would say it was absolutely impossible to clearly define, let alone identify, the 10,000th person to ‘land’. (Does ‘landing’ signify their feet touching the sand (whether under water or not), their first step out of the water, the moment their landing craft grounded on the bottom, or what?)

      And how to keep count, do dead soldiers who got shot while still in the water count towards the total ‘landed’? Let alone determining which one of hundreds of soldiers all trying to ‘land’ at the same time happens to make the magic step.

      Not denigrating your neighbour at all, just arguing that ‘10,000th person to land’ is meaningless. His other adventures you’ve described are far more worthy of recognition IMO.

  20. I would have liked to see better questions than some of the silly ones here but you take what is there. History is a poor place for multiple choice testing and I don’t think is the way most good history teachers would go. Essay is generally the proper direction to show what is really known and understood. Something like — describe the location, plan and major players in the D-day invasion. Find out what they know and if they can write, not what they memorize.

    1. One year, a history teacher of mine, who was a master of minimum effort (though a good teacher) had us make up our own end-of-year exam – our homework was to write a certain number of multiple choice questions on what we’d done in the year, and he then selected to best. It worked quite well, I think.

    2. I think an internet quiz that required answers in essay format would get a rather low level of participation! 🙂

      1. Agreed with both of you. The quiz format unfortunately lends itself to trivia questions but it’s the only format that lends itself to (a) large on-line participation and (b) easy scoring.

  21. I got 56%, which is actually good for me; I usually don’t have a good memory. I was helped by having read The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan a year or two ago. (So really should have done better).

    Just ran across this Vimeo – The Fallen of WWII – that was rather stunning and very well done.

  22. 92% ….. but then I am a military history buff. Got the first person on the beach wrong and also the deceptions.

      1. It is indeed. Took the photo of the Spitfire at the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford a couple of years back. Despite the fact that it was designed for killing, it remains one of the most beautiful aircraft of all time. It is very high up on the list of British icons.

        1. Yes, I’ve always thought it was a beautiful airplane. I hung a mobile of three model Spitfires that I painted with camouflage colors in one of my sons bedrooms when he was young.

          1. I always preferred the Hurricane. Or the Focke-wulf 190D. Probably just teenage rebellion, my father was a mad keen Spitfire enthusiast.

            But we both agreed the Mosquito was great.

  23. 80%, but then I was reading about it just the other night (by coincidence – I’d forgotten about the anniversary), and I got lucky on a few guesses. Not on the pigeons, though.

  24. Granted, as a (North) West German, I am happy that the Western Forces gulped up parts of Germany quickly enough, but D-Day and the involvement of the Americans are largely hyped up, given the facts about the war. We had the topic in school every other history unit and also read various protocols and diplomatic negotiations between the forces. It became clear that the US delayed their involvement and didn’t particularily care for a long time. The Russians asked for support, begged for support but the US held back.

    The tides about to turn and the prospect that vast parts of Europe might fall under Soviet rule eventually motivated the Americans to start the long promised offensive operations.

    Here is a stunning data driven animation (narrated), a must see.

    The Fallen of World War II

    An animated data-driven documentary about war and peace, The Fallen of World War II looks at the human cost of the second World War and sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including trends in recent conflicts.

    Visit fallen.io for the interactive version and more information

    1. Well it is complicated, & Russia played a vital part, but plenty of people died on the Arctic convoys supplying Russia. And there was Lend-Lease as well.

  25. 72%

    Being Brit I knew about the “funnies”. They were offered to the US Army but they were turned down. Dunno sbout the pigeons, though.

    Of course, what infuriates the Brits are Americans who think D-Day was a purely American operation.

  26. D-Day “perhaps can be said to be the turning point in the war.”

    I’d respectfully disagree. I’d say the turning point was much earlier when the Germans failed to win the Battle of Britain, which caused Operation Sealion (the German invasion) to be deferred indefinitely. Had the Luftwaffe managed to neutralise the RAF, an invasion would likely have been successful, and without Britain to act as a springboard it seems likely the US would never have attempted to invade Europe; Nazi Europe would have lasted for decades at the very least.

    Other putative turning points would be Hitler’s foredoomed invasion of Russia, or (from an American point of view) Pearl Harbour.

      1. You could be right, though I’m sure somebody at some time must have said “No 1 sign that your dictator’s gone completely insane: When he decides to invade Russia” 😉

    1. 92%, but I was lucky with some of my guesses.
      I knew the ‘front’ was in the order of nearly 100 km, but I thought the total length of the actual landing beaches was much smaller, got that wrong.
      I knew about pigeons, but didn’t realise they were dropped in massive numbers, got that one wrong too. Note that some of these pigeons were shot by the germans, which led to dozens of executions of resistance fighters and civilians.
      My ‘lucky guesses’ were the famous soldier, the ‘funnies'(I knew about decoy tanks, but not their nickname), Hemingway, Teddy Rooseveldt’s son and the actual time of the gliders’ landing.

    2. I would like to second you in respectfully disagreeing with D-day as a ‘turning point’.
      In ’44 the Germans had basically already lost the war at the ‘Ostfront’.
      If anything could be called a ‘turning point’ it would be Hitler’s refusal to allow von Paulus to retreat from Stalingrad -an order which he obeyed against his better judgement-, which led to the complete destruction of his VIIth(?) army. The Germans never recovered from that.
      Another possible ‘turning point’ might be even earlier: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, which drew the USA fully into the war and resulted in massive -and possibly decisive- logistic aid to the USSR.

  27. I only got 76% as I got all of the numbers/people guesswork ones wrong.

    The Normandy beaches etc are well worth a visit, to anyone who hasn’t been. It really is quite moving to stand on Omaha Beach and Pegasus Bridge (especially if you’ve played Medal of Honor and Call of Duty!).

    Several questions are very poor, though. On Q3, Eisenhower was overall CO, but Montgomery was CO of the actual landings (and stayed in charge on land until after the breakout) so either answer should be OK.

    The odd thing is that only a few weeks later the Germans suffered their greatest defeat of the entire war, but hardly anyone in the west has even heard of this battle. Possibly because it doesn’t have a nice “battle of” name, its just called Operation Bagration or The Destruction of Army Group Centre.

        1. … which I guess proves your point that no-one in the west has ever heard of it. Partly I guess because it was a long way away and there was all sorts of dramatic stuff of more immediate concern going on closer to home; and partly I’m sure because, as soon as the dust settled and paranoia set in, nobody wanted to credit the Russians with anything if they could avoid it.

  28. My dad was sent out to India just after D-Day. He was there for years…

    Here is a quiz question – what was the day two days before D-Day? Bidet…

    1. I believe I knew about the pigeons but managed to forget them in time to get that question wrong on the quiz.

      How’s that for reconstructed memory?

  29. 68% – seems to be a fairly common score for WEIT readers. As usual, some of the questions were not real meaningful. Does anyone but a D-Day history fanatic care if there were 2200 or 3000 ships in the fleet? But I guess the test was designed to give those history buffs an edge up.

    1. I agree with you that some of the questions were trivial, e.g. Rooseveldt’s son, Hemingway, the Famous Soldier or the name of the film ‘The Longest Day’.
      I think the ‘numbers questions’ were not trivial though: it gives an idea about the massive scale of the operation, especially when comparing it to e.g. the failed landing at Dieppe.
      2200 or 3000? That is a nearly 27% difference. Not really trivial in my modest opinion.

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